Norwegian Imperatives follows the direct line from teacher to student over four generations of Norwegian composers. Pianist Håkon Austbø is internationally highly acclaimed for his work in contemporary music, and calls this collection “a group of Norwegian piano works I present with a certain feeling of pride”.
Norwegian composers after Grieg for the most part wrote in a nationalistic style, with one exception: Fartein Valen. He in turn became a true internationalist and developed his unique style out of German late romanticism and the 2nd Viennese school. Valen’s music is a mosaic of voices, moving between dense, feverish intensity and poetic serenity – often referred to as atonal polyphony. Klaus Egge started out writing music much in relation to folk music, but developed toward a less tonal and more polyphonic style. Although inspired by his teacher, he retains his very distinctive rhythmical ‘bites’ and ethereal atmospheres. As opposed to the more withdrawn figure of Valen, Egge developed into the leading figure of his generation in Norway’s musical life.
Musical modernism and stylistic freedom
Finn Mortensen started taking lessons with Egge just before the Second World War. It would not be that many; Mortensen soon disappeared into the underground resistance and never completed his studies. After the war he came into contact with the electronic studios of Stockhausen in Cologne, and is given the credit for bringing musical modernism to Norway. He also became the first Professor of composition in Norway, and one of the most prominent of his students is Rolf Wallin. Mortensen allowed his students to make a free choice with regards to style, and Wallin has a very personal style with distinctive harmonic colours. The Seven Imperatives, written for Carte Blanche dance company in Bergen, was premiered by Håkon Austbø in 2001.
Having lived and worked out of the Netherlands for more than 30 years, Austbø has recently returned to his home country, with an extensive solo career in Europe, USA and Asia. His numerous recordings, among them the complete piano works of Messiaen, have received many awards and great international acclaim.